The date was May 27, 2007, and the man was Johan Schlüter, head of the Danish Anti-Piracy Group (Antipiratgruppen).
He was speaking in front of an audience where the press had not been
invited; it was assumed to be copyright industry insiders only. It
wasn’t. Christian Engström, who’s now a Pirate Member of the European
Parliament, net activist Oscar Swartz, and I were also there.
“My friends,” Schlüter said. “We must filter the Internet to win over
online file sharing. But politicians don’t understand that file sharing
is bad, and this is a problem for us. Therefore, we must associate file
sharing with child pornography. Because that’s something the
politicians understand, and something they want to filter off the
“We are developing a child pornography filter in cooperation with the
IFPI and the MPA so we can show politicians that filtering works,” he
said. “Child pornography is an issue they understand.” Schlüter grinned
I couldn’t believe my ears as I heard this the first time. But the strategy has been set into motion worldwide.
Schlüter’s plan worked like clockwork. Denmark was the first country
to censor AllOfMP3.com, the (fully legal) Russian music store, and is
now censoring The Pirate Bay off the internet. The copyright industry is
succeeding in creating a fragmented Internet.
COLUMN REPOST, UPDATED
This is a repost of a previous TorrentFreak column, which has been updated to reflect recent events. The book The Case For Copyright Reform also describes the scene with Mr. Schlüter, on page 14.
This is why you see the copyright lobby bring up child pornography
again and again and again. They are using it as a battering ram for
censoring any culture outside of their own distribution channels. You
can Google the term in any language, together with the copyright lobby
organization’s site in that language, and see them continuously coming
back to it.
In Sweden, the copyright industry lobbyist Per Strömbäck has publicly
admitted it being one of his best arguments. Try Googling for the
Swedish word for child pornography on the Swedish lobby site and see if
you get any hits in any articles.
If there was no direct association strategy, you’d not expect to get
any hits at all – you’d not expect them to touch that subject. Instead,
you get over 70 hits.
The reasoning is simple and straightforward. Once you have
established that someone who is in a position to censor other people’s
communication has a responsibility to do so, the floodgates open and those middlemen can be politically charged with censoring anything that somebody objects to being distributed.
It is not hard to see why the copyright lobby is pursuing this avenue so ferociously.
It doesn’t really matter that censorship at the DNS level – legislating that one particular set of DNS servers must lie – is ridiculously easy to circumvent: it’s just a matter of changing
your DNS provider. The idea is to create a political environment where
censorship of undesirable information is seen as something natural and
positive. Once that principle has been established, the next step is to
force a switch to more efficient censorship filters at the IP or even
the content level.
News reached us this week that the so-called six strikes
arrangement with Internet Service Providers in the United States has
been delayed, but is expected to take effect this year. This is a quite
unpopular agreement between ISPs and the copyright lobby to police the
net outside the realm of the law. The arrangement, it turns out, also stems from the copyright industry’s love of child pornography.
“We pointed out to [the governor] that there are
overlaps between the child porn problem and piracy,” Mr. Sherman [The
RIAA president] said, “because all kinds of files, legal and otherwise,
are traded on peer-to-peer networks.” (New York Times)
Sound familiar? It should. It’s a page right out of the 2007 scene
where the Danish Mr. Schlüter talked about the copyright lobby’s
policymaking strategy of associating non-monopolistic sharing of culture
with the rape of defenseless children.
This association strategy has now worked in the United States, too.
In the United Kingdom, when the courts ruled that the Internet Service Providers must use their existing child porn filter to also censor The Pirate Bay,
who do you think gave the courts that idea? When the court didn’t just
mandate that The Pirate Bay be censored, but gave the ISPs explicit
instructions for what technology to use to do it? That incident is
probably the clearest example of the success of this association
Just when you think the copyright lobby can’t sink any lower, they surprise you again. And it gets worse. Much worse.
In Europe, the copyright lobby succeeded in pushing Commissioner Cecilia “Censilia” Malmström to create a similar censorship regime, despite clear setbacks
in these ambitions from the European Court of Justice which defended
human rights and freedom to communicate against internet censorship.
But taking one step back, would censorship of child pornography be
acceptable in the first place? Is the copyright industry perhaps
justified in this particular pursuit, beyond their real goal of blocking
There are two layers of answers to that. The first is the principal
one, whether pre-trial censorship is ever correct. History tells us that
it plainly isn’t, not under any circumstance. End of story.
But more emotionally, we can also turn to a German group named Mogis.
It is a support group for adult people who were abused as children, and
is the only one of its kind. They are very outspoken and adamant on the
issue of censoring child pornography.
Censorship hides the problem and causes more children to be abused, they say. Don’t close your eyes, but see reality and act on it.
As hard as it is to force oneself to be confronted emotionally with
this statement, it is rationally understandable that a problem can’t be
addressed by hiding it. One of their slogans is “Crimes should be punished and not hidden”.
This puts the copyright industry’s efforts in perspective. In this context they don’t care in the slightest
about children, only about their control over distribution channels. If
you ever thought you knew cynical, this takes it to a whole new level.
The conclusion is as unpleasant as it is inevitable. The
copyright industry lobby is actively trying to hide egregious crimes
against children, obviously not because they care about the children,
but because the resulting censorship mechanism can be a benefit to their
business if they manage to broaden the censorship in a follup-up stage. All this in defense of their lucrative monopoly that starves the public of culture.
It’s hard to comprehend that there are people who are so shameless
that they would actually do this. But there are. Every time you think
the copyright lobby has sunk as morally low as is humanly possible, they
come up with new ways to surprise you.
“With time, it becomes clearer that these people will stop at nothing.” — Danish reporter Henrik Moltke,
about a (different) recent run-in with the copyright lobby, and who
reminded me of this episode and who observed firsthand the next occasion
when Schlüter and I met, when I reminded Schlüter of his remarks in
front of a silent audience. (Thanks, Henrik.)